The “Great” Final Exam

final exam

Final Exam Study Guide

[note: the exam will be cumulative.  If you attended class regularly, took notes, actively engaged in blogging, and completed the required the reading, you should be able to do well on the exam given, of course, some additional studying / refreshing]

FINAL EXAM = 30% of your grade, or 300 points


(1) Text IDs—10 total @ 5 points each = 50 points (take ~10 minutes).  Identify the novel and author from which each excerpt is taken

(2) Slightly Expanded Text IDs—5 total @ 10 points each = 50 points (take ~25 minutes).  Expand five of the text IDs above, noting the character who speaks it / thinks it / focalizes it (if it is objectively narrated, you can just note that it is the objective narrator’s voice) and write 4-5 sentences about that excerpt’s significance to the novel’s broader themes and/or formal qualities and  its context within the novel. I won’t go out of my way to fool you. The excerpts will be prominent, and will have been discussed in some ways in class.

(3) Short Answer (2-3 paragraphs)—4 total @ 25 points each = 100 points (take ~ 60 minutes).  You will have some choice in the matter, selecting 4 from 7 choices. The following are just examples of the kinds of questions you might encounter.

  • Fully Expanded Text IDS: select another (sixth) except and expand on its context / significance in 2-3 paragraphs.
  • Questions that drill down on particular novels related to themes discussed in class: Dos Passos’s 42nd Parallel, written in the wake of the execution of Sacco and Venzetti in 1927, constituted a complex response both to the revolutionary potential and to the threatened demise of what might be broadly referred to as the “anticapitalist left” during the first quarter of the 20th century. Dos Passos used four distinct formal strategies throughout the novel to convey his response. First, name each formal strategy. Then, focusing on a single strategy, discuss how it either successfully critiques a country—and world—driven by “specialmoneyed” interests, or, alternately, how it reflects an inability to respond adequately to the forces of alienation and industrialization (or somewhere in between).
  • Likely question about narrative form (emphasis on narration / narrative technique)
  • Likely question on identity (racial, sexual, class-based, etc.).
  • Broader questions that ask you to discuss a shared theme (how mental illness / disability is used in any two novels); how “passing” becomes a broader trope in the novels that we deal with as characters negotiate identity; etc.

TAKE HOME PORTION–Submit in Designated OAKS Dropbox

(3) Longer Answer (5-6 paragraphs)—1 @ 100 points. Please submit your response in the designate OAKS dropbox to the question below by 5:00 PM on the day after the exam.

  • The tradition of the Great American Novel has quietly attended our class, and I feel that this final exam offers a great opportunity to bring it front and center. In its simplest form, as Lawrence Buell argues, the GAN tradition persists “most obviously and fundamentally, to affirm a memorable reading experience.” While this sense of simply loving a given book is where your allegiance might begin, this question asks you to signal an awareness of the broader GAN tradition. In your response, please begin by providing an overview of the Great American Novel debate as it is presented in Buell’s article (“The Unkillable Dream”). Specifically, please note when the Great American Novel debate originated, who first presented it, how the criteria for what makes a GAN changed since it was first proposed, and what the standard “recipes” for a GAN are. Having offered this broad overview, please proceed to make the case for one of the novel’s we’ve read in class based on the standard criteria, based on criteria of your own, or based on some mix of standard and personal criteria.

Cheat Sheet: You can use a 1-page, single-side cheat sheet if you’d like, though this provision was originally more relevant when the longer essay was a compose-in-class option rather than a take-home option. Up to you!


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